Germany doubling its funding to Jewish community


BERLIN (JTA) — Germany will double its funding to the Central Council of Jews in Germany to about $13 millon.

The decision, which broke last week in the mainstream news before being publicly announced, follows negotiations that began a year ago with the election of Dieter Graumann, a businessman based in Frankfurt, to head the council.

The German federal government will raise its allocation to the Central Council to 10 million euro, or about $13 million, from about 5 million euro, or $6.7 million.

The contract is reportedly to be signed in the coming days. Graumann confirmed the allocation in an interview Saturday with Domradio, a Catholic radio news service.

Speaking with young Jews at a youth congress in Weimar over the weekend, Graumann, 61, said he hopes especially to use the new funding to help the younger generation. He said that despite Europe’s difficult economic climate, the timing was evidently right — with the current government of Chancellor Angela Merkel still in power — to ask for additional help.

Graumann said the council represents 110,000 Jews who are members of communities. According to the council, another 140,000 people who identify as Jews do not belong to communities. The great majority — some 85 percent — came to Germany from the former Soviet Union after German unification in 1990.

Germany’s Jewish population is more than five times as large as before fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Before Hitler came to power in 1933, there were about 500,000 Jews in Germany.

In 2003, the German government signed its first contract with the Central Council, putting it on a legal par with the Catholic and Protestant communities. At the time, the government pledged 3 million euro, or about $4 million, per year to help the Jewish community meet its infrastructure needs, before raising the allotment to its current levels in 2008.

In recent years, as the community has grown, there have been increasing demands on the council to fund additional programs, such as those that train teachers and rabbis for communities.

Graumann has said his main concern as head of the council is to promote the continuity of Jewish life in Germany, with a special focus on youth and on the integration of former Soviet Jews in the communities.

The Jewish youth congress in Weimar marked the first time that the event has been held concurrently with the meeting of the Central Council board. Participants had the chance to ask questions of the president in a special forum, and on Sunday they were to be represented at the board meeting.

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